Coulson has denied being aware of the practice of phone hacking while he was editor at News of the World

The British prime minister's communications chief has been interviewed by police over allegations he encouraged reporters to hack phones during his previous role as editor of a tabloid newspaper.

A Downing Street spokesman said on Saturday the officers are investigating claims that journalists from the News of the World had illegally intercepted phone messages to get stories.

"Andy Coulson voluntarily attended a meeting with Metropolitan Police officers ... at a [lawyer's] office in London," the spokesman said.

Coulson quit in 2007 as editor of News of the World, Britain's highest circulation newspaper and part of Rupert Murdoch's News Corp stable, and David Cameron, the UK PM, hired him the same year.

His resignation came after Clive Goodman, who covered the royal family, was jailed for four months for writing stories based on information from a private detective who had illegally accessed the voicemail messages of palace aides.

Coulson has always denied being aware of the practice, but reports in the New York Times in September accused reporters of regularly hacking messages. One former journalist told the BBC he was asked by Coulson to tap into phones.

Opposition politicians have called for Cameron to sack Coulson and critics have questioned his judgement in appointing him at all.

However, the Downing Street spokesman said on Saturday that Coulson enjoyed the prime minister's full support and the interview he had given to police was expected to be the end of the matter.

Source: Agencies